• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG

In today’s edition: Kevin McCarthy’s staff makes calls for Jim Jordan in speaker race, moderate Repu͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
cloudy Washington
sunny San Francisco
cloudy Kyiv
rotating globe
October 5, 2023


Sign up for our free newsletters
Today in D.C.
  1. McCarthy staff make calls for Jordan
  2. Republicans call to punish Gaetz
  3. Salvaging Ukraine aid
  4. Trump cashes in
  5. Feinstein’s funeral

PDB: Biden administration waives laws to allow border wall construction

Biden gets Ukraine briefing … Fears of U.S. recession grow … NYT: McCarthy ouster ‘another example of U.S. disarray’ for world

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Jim Jordan has some intriguing supporters

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Members of Kevin McCarthy’s staff have been working the phones on behalf of Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan’s run for speaker, multiple sources confirmed to Semafor’s Kadia Goba. It’s unclear if McCarthy himself has sanctioned their work. One source familiar with their efforts described the staff as “consulting and providing guidance” to Jordan’s operation, which they distinguished from an endorsement. Jordan’s top competition is Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a longtime McCarthy deputy. McCarthy said he “might” endorse a successor at his post-ouster press conference on Tuesday night but has not suggested which candidates he’s inclined to favor.

Meanwhile, Kadia also reports that some moderate Republicans are pushing for a major rule change to make sure McCarthy’s successor will be harder to topple. Their demand: Do away with the clause that lets any single member call a vote to remove the House’s leader from power. “That needs to go,” Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who represents a district Biden won in 2020, told Semafor. “That rule needs to change as part of any choice for Speaker.” The Republican Main Street Caucus, a group of more than 70 self-described “pragmatic” members, pushed back on the rule as well Wednesday, calling it a “chokehold on this body.”


McCarthy allies talk revenge

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Republicans couldn’t save Kevin McCarthy, but some are hoping to avenge him. They spent much of Wednesday promising to strike back against Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. and the seven other GOP rebels who ousted the speaker on Tuesday. “I think Matt would be a great dictator in a small island nation in the Pacific or something, that’s probably the best next step for him,” Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig. “I do think there should be repercussions.” Some of McCarthy’s allies, like Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., are urging that the mutineers be stripped of their committee assignments. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., told reporters he believed Gaetz should be expelled from the GOP conference for “disgraceful” conduct. Republican Senators, meanwhile, have been opening fire at Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., an anti-McCarthy insurgent considering a second run for the upper chamber. “If Matt Rosendale tries to get in that [primary], I’ll be doing everything to defeat him,” said Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., a close friend of McCarthy’s.


New deal for Ukraine

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Pool

Democrats want Ukraine aid. Republicans want border security legislation. Why not both? That’s the emerging plan from key members on both sides of the aisle, Morgan Chalfant reports, who are hoping it can give the new House speaker just enough room to corral reluctant conservatives. “I think the only way to do Ukraine aid well is to couple it with a border bill,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. said. But the idea is in trouble already: Heritage Action, the powerful advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, is pushing new speaker candidates to reject combining the two issues. The leading speaker candidates are keeping their options open, but may be more skeptical of aid than McCarthy, whose support was already no sure thing. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio said he was “against” Ukraine aid on Wednesday before his office seemed to walk it back. Punchbowl News reports that Jordan told the Texas delegation during a private lunch yesterday that he would want the Ukraine funding to be offset. Another hurdle: Congress and the White House haven’t agreed on a major immigration deal in decades, which would be a fraught process in its own right. In the meantime, President Biden says he’ll try to break the impasse with a “major” speech making the case that bolstering Ukraine is in America’s interest.


Trump is burying DeSantis in cash

REUTERS/Mike Segar

Donald Trump is on trial for overhyping his personal assets, but he has plenty to brag about when it comes to his political fundraising. His campaign reported pulling in $45.5 million for its joint fundraising committee over the last quarterly filing period, leaving it with $37.5 million cash on hand. That dwarfs a $15 million haul brought in by DeSantis, which his team had pointed to as a sign of their competitiveness. Making matters even worse for the Florida governor, his operation only has $5 million of cash available for the primaries, versus $36 million in Trump’s case. “Realistically, he would need 10 times that to be competitive with the rest of the field,” Republican campaign veteran Alex Conant told NBC News in a must-read piece on his latest financial struggles. The polling news isn’t any better for DeSantis this week, either: A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA TODAY survey of New Hampshire found Trump with 49% of the primary vote, Nikki Haley at 19% and DeSantis a distant third at 10%. Haley also comes in second in her home state of South Carolina, according to a poll from Winthrop University, where Trump leads by similar margins.


Farewell to a California legend

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, are in San Francisco today for the late Dianne Feinstein’s funeral. Vice President Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff are also making the trip. Feinstein lay in state on Wednesday in City Hall, where former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi visited with members of Feinstein’s family.

Live Journalism

October is abuzz with live journalism from Semafor. See below our schedule of gatherings for your calendar. We look forward to welcoming you.

Igniting Innovation: America’s Digital Future

Join us for a discussion on the state of broadband access, equity, connectivity challenges, and digital infrastructure. Program Partner: AT&T

Date: October 10 | Washington D.C


Principals Live with Joe Dominguez, Constellation CEO

Join us for a candid discussion with Joe Dominguez examining the next generation renewable energy technologies that will help usher in a new era of the energy transition, and how to scale innovative and effective clean energy projects.

Date: October 11 | Washington D.C.


Securing the Digital Future: A Cybersecurity Summit

Join us in exploring the threats, the solutions and the future of cyber security from the lens of business, policy, privacy and beyond. Program Partner: Cisco

Date: October 17 | Washington D.C.



Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has some built-in advantages in the race for speaker: He’s “in line with the party base” policy-wise and already has a “huge national profile.” But some moderates simply won’t vote for him, because his strength with hardliners is his weakness when it comes to governing: He has “displayed no willingness nor interest in compromise.”

Axios: Expectations that the GOP civil war can be resolved by next Wednesday’s speaker vote are “at rock-bottom.”

Playbook: There’s already talk among some Republicans that Steve Scalise and Jordan could run as a “slate” — with Scalise as speaker and Jordan as majority leader — if neither candidate gets to 218.

White House

  • President Biden is still chipping away at student debt forgiveness, even after the Supreme Court knocked down his most sweeping plans for it earlier this year. On Monday, the White House said it had canceled another $9 billion in debt through “fixes” to existing payment programs, bringing its total to $127 billion. (Payments resume this month.)
  • With the migrant crisis still raging, the Biden administration waived 26 laws to allow for border wall construction in South Texas, citing an “acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads” to prevent illegal crossings. (The Trump campaign is gloating.)
  • Biden will receive a briefing on Ukraine at noon from his national security team, including newly-confirmed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
  • The administration is transferring seized Iranian weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.


  • Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. even as he declined to call for him to resign, saying he was “deeply disturbed and disappointed” by the allegations in his indictments.
  • Meanwhile, the Menendez story is getting grimmer. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that his spouse Nadine Menendez killed a man in a 2018 auto accident, and a witness said a so-called “retired police officer” appeared to intervene on her behalf at the scene. The crash may also be connected to the indictment, which alleges she was gifted a luxury car afterwards.
  • A group of senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. raised concerns with the White House about Saudi Arabia seeking security guarantees from the U.S. in exchange for normalizing ties with Israel.
  • The knives are out in Trump world for Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., who is vying for House majority leader, in part because he voted to certify Joe Biden’s election in 2020. — Time


A new Quinnipiac poll finds Biden and Trump locked in a statistical tie in Pennsylvania, with Trump narrowly up 47-45 among registered voters. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. has a 50-44 edge over Republican Dave McCormick.

Big Read

Rudy Giuliani denied that he had an alcohol problem during a press conference in New Hampshire Wednesday. The comments followed a lengthy New York Times feature that described his excessive drinking, which by most accounts began after his failed 2008 presidential campaign, as “the pulsing drumbeat punctuating” his personal, legal, and political fall from grace. It has also drawn questions from prosecutors in Donald Trump’s federal election case, since it could undermine one of the former president’s key potential defenses: That he was reasonably relying on the advice of his lawyers. That’s a harder claim to make if your lead attorney was visibly drunk.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: TikTok’s reported decision to hire two executives from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, drew scrutiny from a bipartisan pair of senators.

What the Right isn’t reading: Washington state will raise its minimum wage to $16.28 per hour beginning next year.

One Good Text

Steve Inskeep is a journalist and host of NPR’s Morning Edition and its news podcast Up First. He is the author of the new book, Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America.